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9/11 families meet with AG Holder on hacking probe

From Sally Holland,, CNN
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said he had seen "no evidence" that 9/11 families' phones had been hacked.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said he had seen "no evidence" that 9/11 families' phones had been hacked.
  • NEW: Family members ask for investigation of possible hacking to be expanded
  • NEW: Justice officials don't take phone numbers offered by family members for the probe
  • The FBI has been probing whether 9/11 victims' phones and voice mail were hacked
  • The hacking scandal has led to several arrests and resignations in Britain

Washington (CNN) -- Families of victims of the 9/11 attacks asked Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday to expand an investigation of whether their relatives' phone messages might have been hacked by employees of News Corp.

The investigation by the FBI follows revelations of hacking by News Corp. employees in the United Kingdom that have rocked the media empire of Rupert Murdoch.

An attorney for some of the families told reporters after Wednesday's 75-minute meeting at the Department of Justice that the roughly dozen 9/11 relatives who took part were pleased with the talks and believed their concerns were being taken seriously.

"We recommended that the (Department of) Justice and the FBI get the cell phone numbers of the deceased 9/11 victims and the family members because by doing that they then can go to the carriers -- Verizon, AT&T -- and search the records to find out whether someone other than the family members was hacking into the cell phone," said the attorney, Norman Siegel.

However, Siegel said that Justice officials did not ask for the cell phone numbers offered by the families, adding that "we didn't get on that specific question the kind of response at least I would have liked to have seen."

Phone hacking: How scandal unfolded

The family members also asked for the Justice Department officials to expand the focus of the investigation beyond hacking of cell phones to include possible hacking of computers, according to Siegel.

In addition, they asked for the Justice officials to review news reports involving their relatives from September 10 to December 31, 2001, at a minimum to determine whether or not "personal information in those stories could only have come from someone hacking," Siegel said.

There was no specific response to the three recommendations by the family members, he said.

A Department of Justice official called the meeting positive, but added that Holder was unable to provide the family members with details of what he called the "preliminary" investigation, the scope of it or whether the investigation has turned up anything to support the allegations of possible hacking of 9/11 victims.

However, the attorney general did tell the family he found the allegations "disturbing," according to the official who spoke on condition of not being identified because the meeting was private.

Jim Riches, a retired New York firefighter who son was killed on 9/11, said Holder told the victims' relatives that hacking was "disgusting" if it did indeed occur.

The FBI began investigating possible hacking of phones of relatives of 9/11 victims amid a widespread scandal in Britain over phone hacking by employees or associates of News Corp. papers there.

Murdoch told British lawmakers in late July that he had seen "no evidence" that victims of the 9/11 attacks were victims of phone hacking by his employees and that he doesn't believe it happened. The FBI has said its investigation is ongoing and had no comment on Wednesday's meeting.

The scandal has led to the shuttering of the News of the World, once Britain's biggest Sunday paper; the resignations and arrests of two top former editors; and the resignations of two top British police officials amid allegations that reporters bribed law enforcement officers.

Several U.S. lawmakers pressed for an investigation on the American side after one of News Corp.'s tabloid rivals reported that a retired New York police officer was approached by News of the World reporters for help in hacking into phone records and voice mails of 9/11 families. The tabloid Daily Mirror did not identify the ex-officer.

CNN's Susan Candiotti and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.